Money is a strange “thing”! I use the word “thing” this morning because I believe that in our society and culture, we have made money into a “thing”!! What happens when we make something a “thing”? It allows us to define it, use it, and proclaim it in any way we want to!! That is a dangerous move when it comes to money and finances.
We are challenged daily in our lives to use our money wisely. We hear it talked about from the minute we get out of bed in the morning, until we go to sleep at night. Everybody is concerned with “our” money!! Where we spend “our” money, where we earn “our” money, where we save “our” money, everybody is concerned with us and “our” money. What I think is the prophetic statement in the world today, is that it will be a great day when “we” are concerned about “our” money!!!
We have spent the last two decades listening to stories about the rise and fall of the stock market and the housing market, threats of a recession and promises of abundance. One of the clear and overriding principles we find here is “that we have always been the people with the money!!” We have not been the people who were suffering in great poverty and despair, so how difficult is it to hear the stories, the narrative about money? Even more so, the Christian narrative about money and how we respond to a world that is engulfed with greed is an extremely important story to hear.
It then becomes our call to respond to this world with an equation for balance and financial stewardship.
Now hear me very clear!!! I am not saying or implying that “we” in this room, have always been the ones with money, but we have lived in a culture that has come to believe that it has endless finance and endless ways of obtaining money.
Once again we find ourselves, as Christians, seeking a balance in the midst of this confusion and plunder.
John Wesley states in his famous sermon, “The Use Of Money”, he says, “An excellent branch of Christian wisdom is...namely, the right use of money-a subject largely spoken of by men of the world; but not sufficiently considered by those whom god hath chosen out of the world...Neither do they understand how to employ it to the greatest advantage.”
Wesley here, simply states the fact that we are imbalanced when it comes to the Christian understanding of the use of money. Anytime we prepare to launch into a new understanding of something, something especially as important as money, we tend to break out in hives, sweat profusely, and shuffle around like a “Weeble who wobbles, but can’t fall down”.
James Harnish tells the simple story that may serve as the launching pad for Christians when it comes to the concern of money. “A husband comes home from work one evening and notices a new magnet on the refrigerator door, it says, “Prayer Changes Things!!” He immediately takes it down and places it in the drawer. His wife came up to him asked if she had offended him by suggesting that Prayer changes things. He responded that he was fine with prayer, it was just the “change” that he didn’t like.” We become complacent with the use of our money and how we save our money and how we earn our money. We have become comfortable for the most part in being “okay” with the situation.
My friends, change is a requirement for Christian living and for Christian discipleship and stewardship!! Change is required in order for us to be faithful with our money.
Anytime we change, we are required to find a new balance in our living. John Wesley offered us some simple yet radical thoughts on money and the Christian tradition. Let’s take a look at them over the next couple of moments.
Wesley’s first concern was that we should “get money”!! Gain, earn, all you can “by honest industry”. In other words, gain as much as you can under the household of honesty and integrity. Then he said, “Do it as soon as possible!!” This could tire even the hardest worker if you read Wesley’s sermon. But what he was concerned about was that as Christians we are willing and able to work for the income that is available for us. But this all comes with a fair warning that gain is something that must be tempered and monitored. Wesley calls us to look at three things to monitor our “gaining”; 1. Gain, but not at the expense of our health, (i.e. workaholics and the high cost of living and stress.) 2. Gain, without damage to our souls; Wesley was concerned that we gained by way of honesty and not in what he called, “sinful trades”. He wants us to gain by things that are clearly Christian and “of the spirit”. 3. Gain, without hurting our neighbor. That should go without saying, but our gain in money should not be at the expense of those around us, whether locally or globally.
Thus, in the summation of “gaining”, both biblically and through the wisdom of Wesley, we see that in order to start this equation of Gain, Save, and Give, we must first “gain” all that we can.
II. We move next into the understanding of “Save All You Can”. Wesley said, “Save all you can. Do not throw it away in idle expenses, which is just the same as throwing it into the sea.”
Saving is something that for some people just does not come easy. Others, it is second nature in their life. The key is to save the right thing!! Both in our Gospel lesson this morning and in Wesleyan theology, the emphasis is placed on saving in the right way and saving without regret.
One of the most difficult things we do with our money is to save it for things that we will never see. It is true, you cannot take it with you when you leave this temporal world. However, what we can do is to save it in order that someone else might use it wisely!! It took me a long time to learn how to save wisely. I love to shop!! That is not a story!! What I have to fight is the “consumption devil”. I have to ask myself often, ‘do I need that?’ or ‘do I just want that?’ I firmly believe that is one of the greatest conversations that this world has with itself. It corners the market on greed and consumption. Both the Bible and Wesley were absolutely certain that this was an area of sin that needed to be addressed. Now, what happens is that wisdom must come into play.
When Wesley addressed this understanding of “saving all you can” in his sermon, he was concerned with the idea and understanding that people were “frugal”. For years, I thought “frugal” meant cheap or “tight with your money”, but I discovered several years ago that frugal comes from a Latin root word that means “useful” or “temperate”. Literally meaning “without waste”. Continuing to look at this in a biblical sense we begin to see that the necessity of “saving” comes into play when we learn contentment. Unfortunately, contentment in this world is difficult to grasp, but it can be done!! Frugality can lead to contentment, such as with guidance from scripture. One of the best guides to this is found in Proverbs 15:15 “All the days of the poor are hard, but a cheerful heart has a continual feast.”
Thus our discussion in saving continues in the vein that we must save in a smart way. Looking at our options, our investments, and our needs. Yet doing this in a way that allows us to be those servants that continue to work at the harvest of the Kingdom and to find balance in our own Christian lives.
III. Finally we come to the final part of Wesley’s instructions; “Give All You can”. Most people like to give, but when it comes to their money, even Christians have a difficult parting with what they thought was once theirs!! Hence, the key to our giving is to realize that it was “never ours to begin with”!!! It was and is God’s!! We have just been entrusted to be the steward of this great financial gift while upon the earth.
Both the Bible and Wesley are clear that “giving” is essential to the soul and the well-being of the Kingdom. The scriptures remind us that in real life, real joy, and real abundance are found, not in how much I get, but in how much I give. !!
For a long time I believed that Christian giving was just part of what was “supposed” to happen. But I had a friend one time share with me, the joy of giving financially, not just to the church but giving in the Christian understanding of what it meant to be an ‘intentional giver’. I always saw my parents put the envelope in the offering plate and I just thought it was something you were “supposed” to do. But then I had a friend, a church member, many years ago, who I knew was not financially sound in his savings or his earnings. What he taught me was that in giving, it had to be intentional!! Giving just didn’t happen, giving was part of a Christian’s life of stewardship, giving was being motivated to further the Kingdom because you are a ‘Child of God’ and for no other reason!!!
But he also taught me one other lesson that changed my life forever. That was, giving allows us to be joyful on a whole new level of Christian understanding. Giving all we can, allows us to be a joyful follower of Jesus Christ who gave us all of himself!!
My friends, we have only touched the service of this all-encompassing issue of money; gaining, saving, and giving. But just as I explained how generosity in Christian giving is essential we have experienced it here this morning.
A friend of mine has given us several copies of Rev. James Harnish’s book, Simple Rules for Money; John
Wesley on Earning, Saving, and Giving. He has asked that you take a copy if you are so moved to read it, to dive deeper into this concept of Wesleyan theology and Biblical practice. If you need to keep the book, please keep it, but if you read it, take notes, pray over it, and then return it to the church so someone else can take it home and read it, there again, it is giving at its finest.
So, please take a copy, read it, return it for others to share as well.
AMEN AND AMEN.